21 September 2007

This day in history: 21 Sep

1745: Some 1400 of Prince Charles Edward Stuart's Scots defeated a Hanoverian army commanded by Sir John Cope in the Battle of Prestonpans. The battle lasted less than 15 minutes.

1765: François Antoine killed a large wolf, thought to be the Beast of Gévaudan. This was later proved wrong by more attacks, which stopped after another animal was killed in June of 1767.

1780: US war hero Major General Benedict Arnold met with British spy Major John Andre to discuss surrendering the fort at West Point.

1857: At Lucknow, India, Lieutenant William Rennie, 90th (Perthshire Volunteers) Light Infantry, charged the enemy's guns under heavy fire, in advance of the regiment's skirmishers, and prevented their dragging off one gun. Rennie was awarded the Victoria Cross for this and for his actions at Lucknow on 25 September.

That same day, at Mungulwar, India, Sergeant Patrick Mahoney, 1st Madras (European) Fusiliers (attached the Volunteer Cavalry), aided in the capture of the colour of the 1st Regiment Native Infantry. Mahoney was also awarded the Victoria Cross.

1918: Lieutenant Samuel L Honey DCM MM, 78th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, was the only surviving officer from his company at Bourlon Wood, France. Taking command of the company, Honey led it on to take the objective, then went out alone to eliminate a troublesome machine-gun nest. After repelling four German counter-attacks, Honey went out alone again that night to locate another enemy position, then led a party out to capture it and three guns. Honey was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, having died of wounds on 30 September, after another attack on the 29th.

1942: The Boeing XB-29, prototype for the B-29 Superfortress, made its maiden flight.

1944: At Arnhem, Holland, the last few paratroopers of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (commanded by Major Gough since Lieutenant Colonel Frost had been wounded), out of ammunition after holding the northern end of the bridge since the evening of the 17th, either surrendered or dispersed to evade capture. The first German troops were finally able to cross the bridge at midday, although it was littered with destroyed vehicles.

Elsewhere, the Guards Armoured Division were able to resume their advance from Nijmegen. The Irish Guards once more took the lead, but had to halt at Elst. 1st Polish Parachute Brigade (Major General S Sosabowski), repeatedly delayed by bad weather, was finally dropped on the southern bank of the Lower Rhine at Driel, opposite 1st Airborne Division's position.

1953: North Korean pilot Lieutenant Ro Kim Suk landed his Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 at Kimpo airfield, outside Seoul. On 26 April 1953, two US Air Force B-29s had dropped leaflets behind enemy lines, offering a $50,000 reward and political asylum to any pilot delivering an intact MiG-15 to American forces for study. Although Ro denied any knowledge of the bounty, he collected the reward, and American scientists were able to examine the MiG-15.

1964: Malta became independent from the United Kingdom.

That same day, the North American XB-70 Valkyrie made its maiden flight, from Palmdale to Edwards AFB, California.

1967: A squad from F Company, 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, was conducting a reconnaissance operation near Con Thein, Vietnam, when it was hit by enemy sniper fire. The squad immediately deployed and advanced to a strongly fortified enemy position, where it was struck by heavy fire, sustaining numerous casualties. Although wounded by the initial burst of fire, machine-gunner Lance Corporal Jedh C Barker remained in the open, firing on the numerically superior enemy, who began to direct most of their fire at his position. Barker was wounded again, in the hand, which prevented him from operating his machine gun. When an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the surviving marines, Barker threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing the explosion with his body. Before succumbing to his wounds, he crawled to the side of a wounded comrade and administered first aid. Barker was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor.

2001: Deep Space 1, launched 24 October 1998 from Cape Canaveral, flew within 2200 kilometres of Comet Borrelly.

2003: Galileo, launched 18 October 1989 aboard the shuttle Atlantis (mission STS-34), was destroyed when the probe was sent into Jupiter's atmosphere.

In addition to Lance Corporal Barker (1945-1967), Emperor Charles V (1500–1558), Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (1771–1832), Chief Joseph (1840–1904), Haakon VII of Norway (1872–1957) and Walter Brennan (1894–1974) died on this date.

And happy birthday to John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), H G Wells (1866–1946), Walter Breuning (1896-TBD), Chuck Jones (1912–2002), Larry Hagman (1931-TBD), Henry Gibson (1935-TBD) and Stephen King (1947-TBD).

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